How to Draw Plants

This video series, created with the California Native Plant Society will teach you some basic techniques to help you quickly and accurately draw plants, either for field sketching or careful botanical illustrations. These videos make use of paper models which you can cut out and manipulate to teach yourself the fundamentals of foreshortening leaves and flowers. Following along with your own model is much more helpful than simply watching the videos alone.

Download a leaf and flower worksheet to follow the exercises at home.

If you are a teacher, you can download PDF templates to create classroom sets of materials to teach botanical illustration to your students. Download the multiple leaf template and multiple flower template. Also you can create large demonstration models to use in front of the class.


How to draw plants: Introduction

How to draw plants: Symmetry

How to draw plants: Foreshortening part 1

How to draw plants: Foreshortening part 2

How to draw plants: Leaves and petals

How to draw plants: Curling leaves, part 1

How to draw plants: Curling leaves, part 2

How to draw plants: Conclusion




54 thoughts on “How to Draw Plants

  1. Suzanne Marshall says:

    Hi John, Thankyou for the wonderful information and videos. Are Derwent pencils OK for drawing? I found you through a young lady who travels down the canals in England on a narrowboat. She draws and writes in her journal.

  2. Nina says:

    Thank you so much for this great drawing lessons!! They are the best and have helped me tremendously in drawing the basics for my watercolor paintings.

  3. Anne Tiwari says:

    Thankyou for these classes. So glad I found them. I don’t know what age group you were aiming for, but apparently I fit well into it. Really learning something from you.

  4. Joseph says:

    John i am having a very difficult time learning how to draw blooming lotus flowers i dont have a 3D model or flower i can look at for reference just photos online but i don’t want to just copy the images without actually learning the structure or form. I intend to exaggerate and illustrate the lotus flowers in a Japanese or irezumi style but i am making very little, if any progress. Any tips you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  5. Kelly K says:

    Just discovered your website through Ambelside Online. Incredible resource for our homeschool! Thank you so much!!!

    • John Muir Laws says:

      Coneflowers are lovely! I don’t have any growing around here in CA that I can use for a demo. Could you send me a good photo of one?

  6. Joanna says:

    I am really excited to do these with my girls and I downloaded, “Opening the World Through Nature Journaling” but I can’t find any work sheets to go along with this. The link that is in the first video is not found any more. Is there a different place to find them?

  7. Beverly A Nadelman`` says:

    As someone who taught photography on college, graduate and professional levels for years, please allow me to say that you are a brilliant teacher. Thank you.

  8. Joshua R Jacobs says:

    Hi John,
    Thanks so much for praying these. Your book and website has become a great resource for the combined art and science natural history class. I am the science teacher and the sketching is intimidating. These videos and your book have helped a ton. Thanks!

  9. Maree Kenwright says:

    Hi John, loving your nature drawing tutorials, really well presented and some fantastic ideas. Just wondering if you have any tutorials that include strappy leaf plants (a large round fountain shape ie Native grasses and Agapanthus) and how to easily draw these in pen and watercolour . Any help would be appreciated. Thank you

    • John Laws says:

      Hi Maree, I will try to put something like that together. If you dont see it in a few months, remind me- it is a good idea.

  10. Melanie says:

    I have never been able to draw a stick figure, never mind anything more complex. Never thought it would matter until my 8-year-old granddaughter, who is really creative, came to me for guidance in drawing cartoons and other fun figures. I’m thrilled to have found your site, as it will help me nurture her love of art. And it’ll teach this grandmother a thing or two as well. Thanks.

  11. Tania says:

    Thank you so much. I love nature and have always wanted to keep a journal. My art skills leave a lot to be desired though and I have tried a few ways to improve. But nothing has broken it down for me as much as this. I have just watched a couple of videos and feel I have learnt more about drawing in those 2 videos than any other attempts I’ve made through life. I am following along with my 10 year old homeschooled son here in the UK. He is an outdoorsey, tree climbing, fishing and gardening type of boy who is also severely dyslexic. This is a great way for him to record things on paper without writing. Thank you.

  12. Filiz Latif says:

    Thank you John. I really enjoyed (and followed) your explanations on how to begin sketching flowers and leaves. I am a beginner and consider your video to be an excellent starting point for me. I now feel sufficient courage to dust off my practically virginal sketch book (featuring stick figures (pardon the pun))and use some of your techniques to draw plants growing in my backyard downunder. Thanks again.

  13. Mary McLellan says:

    Hi John, Oh my gosh. I just discovered you and am thrilled with your workshop videos. I lived in the bay area from the 60’s until 1999 and so wish I had discovered you and your organization them. Of course, I realize it probably did not exist then. Have since moved to NE Oregon up in the mountains and am surrounded by many beautiful plants and animals to draw. Gorgeous landscapes also. I cherish your lessons and will review them many times to help me learn. Thank you so much for your excellent instruction.

  14. Pat thomson says:

    I really appreciated your videos on basic drawing techniques for plants. After working many years as a geologist I am now retiring and turning to botanical drawings and nature sketching. These really helped reinstate some basic techniques I learned years ago in art school and also provided some new insights that I am planning on putting to good use. Thanks so much John for inspiring me to go out there and draw!

  15. LAJ says:

    Thank you for providing drawing tutorials that really enable a first timer to drawing, actually draw something that looks like what it is supposed to!!!! Facing a blank piece of paper and not knowing where to start has kept me from drawing my garden plants for decades. Do appreciate it will take time and a lot of practice to be as good as I would like – both in retraining my brain in how to observe and training my hands how to draw- but so thrilled that I have the tools to know where to start.
    Please, please continue with the tutorials. One possible topic for the future for us Aussies; Australian plants and wildflowers.

  16. GIna says:

    Thank you very much. I learn a lot here. When I learned how to draw petals symmetrically, I felt so happy. It is amazing to know these skills. Thank you for your time and efforts and your love for everyone. ^^

  17. shadowrider says:

    Thank you so VERY much for these videos. I am a beginning “drawer” who is working on accumulating my 10,000 hours developing this skill. Your tips on symmetry are so clear and useful. The demonstrations using the “cone-flower” and leaf have allowed me to understand and to deal with foreshortening as never before. So happy to have found your website. I appreciate your generosity in sharing this information for FREE!

    • John Muir Laws says:

      I really appreciate your support. Please let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover in blog posts to help you with your drawing.

  18. Jessica R. says:

    I am a beginner to all drawing aspects, but not new to psychology. Your explanation of Top-Down was what really helped me understand what I needed to refine when drawing and more. Your videos have helped me greatly!
    Thank you,
    From a Very, Very Determined Beginner

  19. Stella Chester says:

    I just wanted to learn to make basic drawings right along side my journal entries. These videos have been so helpful. Thank you for sharing your know how.

  20. Amal says:

    Thank you so much for these videos. I homeschool my children and my daughter – who is 7 – is wholeheartedly interested in science/ the natural world. We are always learning together and nature journaling. She loves drawing everything from insects to flowers, to mammals to birds. I am learning as I go so I can better guide her. Do you have an available
    class for nature drawing that is ongoing or do you have a set of videos that teach all of your methods- such as a set of DVDs available?
    Thank you so much for this.

    • John Muir Laws says:

      Dear Amal, I would love to meet you and your daughter. I teach free family friendly nature journaling workshops and field trips every month. It is called the Nature Journal Club and it is made especially for folks like you. In fact I have a field trip this weekend and am teaching five free classes next week! Please join us. Learn more at

  21. Bob Young says:

    I recently started drawing again and am using Betty Edwards’ “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” to improve my drawing. Your videos on drawing plants is beyond words. It complements what Betty Edwards writes about so well. I am a visual learner and your videos make understanding perspective drawing so much more understandable for me. Botanical illustration may be what I concentrate on for some time.
    Thank you so much for your generosity in making these wonderful videos. Your teachings skills are superb.

  22. Nick Roth says:

    John, Excellent series! I have been journaling 2 tmes per week since the Sierra course. Remember, evidence has shown that 30 continual days of an activity makes for a habit to form. We have a cabin near the campus and have returned a few times after the course to find a whole new way of observing!

    Question for portraying a leaf: the view is frontal and Only the top surface is seen. The distal point of the leaf is either curling up or away. I have struggled with this and I have not seen this specific view addressed in the series. Thanks for any help that can be offered. Nick

  23. Gabrielle Stannus says:

    Thanks so much for putting these videos together! I have to draw 8 different plant specimens for a horticultural assignment, including all leaves, stems, flowers and fruit. What seemed to be an overwhelming task now feels a little more achievable thanks to your tips for drawing leaves and flowers.

  24. Wayne Melton says:

    Your videos are great and an inspiration to those of us less talented that we may also be able to do basic drawings. You make it look so easy yet your videos are so informative. You help a lot of people to do something they may never have considered.


  25. Edward says:

    Hey John

    Thank you for the helpful videos, symmetry has always given me a bit of trouble, your videos have filled me with great ideas =) Thank you man, I hope you are keeping well and continuing your wonderful work, you are a kind person =) Edward

  26. Lladro@Lladro Figurines says:

    Ok, I agree it is a skill. A skill that can be developed. But like most skills you may or may not be able to develop that skill into the level you want whether you practice for one year or a lifetime. Some people can and others or most can not. Yep, they can draw, or paint and it looks nice with practice. But the product is not competitive with true artists and eventually you come to that realization.

    It is like playing baseball, or writing, or playing chess. You can practice at chess for a solid year, learn all the openings, memorize a thousand games, get actually pretty good and some 10 year old with a 1800 ranking will absolutely kill you in the game. You are solid, you learned, you practiced, and you can beat most people but you will never get to the levels you want to reach.

    Sorry, so much in life is like this. Practice, skill, more practice without a gift of specialized talent will leave you searching for the level you will never reach. You see it over and over again in all forms of life. Business, sports, music, art, and a hundred other daily activities.

    I don’t know what you call it but “it” is a key ingredient. Doesn’t mean with practice you can not get good you just will never reach the levels you want to reach. Sometimes that is great for many of us. Most of the time we move onto something else.


  27. Lladro@Lladro Figurines says:

    So anyone can learn basic art concepts and apply them with a little practice?

    Some better than others I suppose.


    • John Muir Laws says:

      Drawing is not a gift. It is a skill that is developed by practice and that anyone can learn to a high degree of proficiency. If you don’t do it, you will not get better. Throw yourself into it for one year. At the end of that year, you will emerge with the skill solidly under your belt.

  28. neil cameron watson says:

    Hi john, first, i want to thank you for the drawing plants series. i struggle with drawing, and your vids clarified for me this fundimental knowledge, essential if one wants to get any where drawing plants. will you be continuing this series?, i do hope so. and where (if anywhere) can i see the 6th video , curling leaves. regards neil

    • John Muir Laws says:

      Thank you so much Neil. I have now posted the sixth video (split into two parts). I hope you enjoy it. Let me know about other topics you would find helpful and I will see if I can develop online materials to meet the need. The most important thing is to keep drawing. The more you draw the easier it becomes.

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